The case for an abolitionist approach has been made by the practical demands and actions of abolitionists in US history and by contemporary scholars and activists alike. Wherever we see the structures and policies that produce inequality and domination of one group or groups over others, we should seek to transform those conditions.
American abolitionist fought slavery which was protected by slave codes, the legal structure of this country supported the instituttion of slavery. It involved the rights of whites to control and conscribe the actions of Black people through the institutionalization of racial hierarchies that conferred privileges, citizenship and ownership of enslaved peoples. The codes prohibited teaching Black people to read and write. The Black codes were enacted following slavery required Black people have contracts by January 1st or risk arrest for loitering. The legal and policing apparatuses played an important role in efforts to control the social, political and economic lives of Blacks. Every institution in our country to this day retains elements of a racialized double standard in which a certain set of rights and freedoms exist for whites and another set exists for Blacks.
In our high schools the separate but equal mythology persists in the AP v. general education in which white students predominate in AP courses and black students are relegated to IEPs and general education. In the hiring practices, curriculum. In the strict control over access to the building, in the violence Black children experience inside schools , the mindset of policing and in the disparities in disciplinary actions. Given this environment, we should hardly be surprised to see disparate outcomes in graduations rates, grades, suspension rates, etc
Perhaps the most heart breaking element is our unwillingness to seek out our own alternatives. We could build learning opportunities that make liberated learning and abolitionist justice their key organizing principles. What would that look like?
We should insist on a school system which respects and acknowledges the lessons of our abolitionist history and the need to eradicate any remaining elements of policing and illicit power which prop up structural racism in schools.
And we should also provide alternative, liberated space to learn for students. Abolitionists also help those subjected to injustice escape it. We build alternatives to enslavementandthe policies carried over from slavery whichhave the same impact of limiting advancement or forstalling, destroying independence and systematizing the disengagement and incarceration of our youth.
A Black Homeschoolers Network of teaching teams to support independent opportunities for Black youth to shine is needed. Parents and students should not feel that they have no alternative to the chaos, racism and policing that defines the public school experience. For whatever reason, Madison is not ready to embrace alternatives to policing and so we see that since the beginning of the school year the police have been called into places of learning. It would be short sighted to think that the policing is only about uniformed officers entering our school with guns. Another part of the problem is the mindset of policing Black people that lives in the thoughts and actions of our school staff. Choked, arrested at gun point, ignored and criminalized. We can do better.